Have you ever had one of those nightmares, where you are sitting on the toilet in the middle of school? Last summer, Columbia University students made this dream a reality! Adrian Coleman, an alumnus of the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, designed a pavilion and composting toilet that was to be installed in the university’s courtyard, providing a public restroom.
The pavilion, called BOB, sits below an inflatable cloud that floats above the courtyard. The project combined the talents of Columbia art and architecture students, and included a public restroom. The pavilion featured sustainable projects by students, including twelve solar-powered pieces of furniture by different student designers. The chairs were arranged around a large wooden screen, which would show night time films projected from a nearby tower.
With virtually no public restrooms on Columbia’s campus, the students wanted to use the pavilion to create one. However, since the toilet was in the middle of an academic courtyard, no plumbing hook up was possible. So, a composting toilet made the most sense, as well as fitting in with the sustainable aspects of their program.
Since composting toilets produce nitrates and nitrites, the team utilized the gasses produced to inflate the cloud like canopy above. Thus, the canopy signified the location of the public restroom, while being powered by the restroom- an incredible lesson of sustainability, while providing students and visitors with a convenience.
Unfortunately, Columbia’s Facilities Department did not see this great environmental lesson, deeming the composting toilet to be unsanitary and unzoned, and citing concerns with the possible smell. Even after letters of persuasion, the final pavilion featured a display toilet only. Despite being non-functional, the presence of the composting toilet introduced students and visitors to the possibility of a sewer-free restroom that yielded its own power.